Friday, July 17, 2015

The Earliest Alleged Marian Apparition Dates to… A.D. 40


Our Lady of Guadalupe dates to 1531. Our Lady of Lourdes dates to 1858. Our Lady of Fátima dates to 1917.
The most popular Marian apparitions all occurred in the last few centuries, which, in the greater perspective of Church history, is fairly recent. But there was a whole other millennium and a half of Church history before that. Did Mary only start appearing to people recently?
Not at all! Amazingly, the first alleged Marian apparition dates all the way back to A.D. 40.
Yes, in the first century, just a few years after the Ascension of Jesus.
The story goes that the Apostle St. James the Greater was in modern-day Spain preaching the Gospel, but without great success. After a lot of work, he had only made a few converts, and he was beginning to lose heart. So, on October 12th, A.D. 40, he gathered a small group of his disciplines and started praying.
Suddenly, Mary miraculously appeared to them. She was standing on top of a pillar, surrounded by angels. She assured them that the people to whom they were preaching would eventually be converted and that their faith would be as strong as the pillar she was standing on. She instructed James to build a chapel in that spot, and she then vanished, leaving the pillar where it was, as well as a wooden image of herself atop the pillar where she had stood.
St. James did as he was instructed and built a chapel around the pillar and statue. He then returned to Jerusalem, where he was martyred in A.D. 44.
What makes this story even more incredible is the fact that Mary may have been still living in Ephesus at the time. We don’t know the exact year of her Assumption, but if she was still living in Ephesus, it would mean her appearance may have been an instance of bi-location.
The pillar and statue remain in Spain to this day and can be seen in the Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar. Our Lady of the Pillar is venerated today as the patroness of Spain and the whole Hispanic world.
The current Basilica was built between the 17th and 19th centuries.
As it the case with lots of old stories, it’s hard to tell. Many popes have approved of the devotion and encouraged pilgrims to visit the pillar and statue. But according to theCatholic Encyclopedia, the earliest recorded testimony of the devotion dates back only to the 12th century.
There’s also a dispute about whether or not the current statue is even the original statue (whenever it was first created). Some traditions say the original wooden statue was lost when the church it was in burned down in 1434 and that the current statue is a replica. Others say the statue survived.
The Catholic faith does not stand or fall on the veracity of this particular story. And either way, I think we can be sure that Our Lady loves us and wants us to lead more people to her Son!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Gay Marriage-Nothing New Under the Sun

Benjamin Wiker
Given that the gay marriage agenda will be increasingly pressed upon Catholics by the state, we should be much more aware of what history has to teach us about gay marriage—given that we don’t want to be among those who, ignorant of history, blithely condemned themselves to repeat it.
Contrary to the popular view—both among proponents and opponents—gay marriage is not a new issue. It cannot be couched (by proponents) as a seamless advance on the civil rights movement, nor should it be understood (by opponents) as something that’s evil merely because it appears to them to be morally unprecedented.
Gay marriage was—surprise!—alive and well in Rome, celebrated even and especially by select emperors, a spin-off of the general cultural affirmation of Roman homosexuality. Gay marriage was, along with homosexuality, something the first Christians faced as part of the pagan moral darkness of their time.
What Christians are fighting against today, then, is not yet another sexual innovation peculiar to our “enlightened age,” but the return to pre-Christian, pagan sexual morality.
So, what was happening in ancient Rome? Homosexuality was just as widespread among the Romans as it was among the Greeks (a sign of which is that it was condoned even by the stolid Stoics). The Romans had adopted the pederasty of the Greeks (aimed, generally, at boys between the ages of 12 to 18). There was nothing shameful about such sexual relations among Romans, if the boy was not freeborn. Slaves, both male and female, were considered property, and that included sexual property.
But the Romans also extended homosexuality to adult men, even adult free men. And it is likely that this crossing of the line from child to adult, unfree to free—not homosexuality as such—was what affronted the more austere of the Roman moralists.
And so we hear from Tacitus (56-117 AD), the great Roman historian, of the shameful sexual exploits of a string of Roman emperors from Tiberius to Nero. Nero was the first imperial persecutor of the Christians. His tutor and then advisor was the great Stoic moralist Seneca himself. Unfortunately, Seneca’s lessons must have bounced right off the future emperor. When he took the imperial seat, complete with its aura of self-proclaimed divinity, no trace of Stoic austerity remained.
In Nero, Tacitus tells the reader, tyrannical passion, the hubris of proclaimed divinity, the corruption of power, and “every filthy depraved act, licit or illicit” seemed to reach an imperial peak. He not only had a passion for “free-born boys” but also for quite literally marrying other men and even a boy, sometimes playing the part of the woman in the union and sometimes the man.
As Tacitus relates one incident (Grant’s translation): “Nero was already corrupted by every lust, natural and unnatural. But he now refuted any surmises that no further degradation was possible for him. For…he went through a formal wedding ceremony with one of the perverted gang called Pythagoras. The emperor, in the presence of witnesses, put on the bridal veil. Dowry, marriage bed, wedding torches, all were there. Indeed everything was public which even in a natural union is veiled by night.”
Such was only one instance. We also have from historian Seutonius, a contemporary of Tacitus, a report of Nero’s marriage to Doryphorus (who was himself married to another man, Sporus).
Martial, the first-century A.D. Roman poet, reports incidences of male-male marriage as kinds of perversions, but not uncommon perversions, speaking in one epigram (I.24) of a man who “played the bride yesterday.” In another (12.42) he says mockingly, “Bearded Callistratus gave himself in marriage to…Afer, in the manner in which a virgin usually gives herself in marriage to a male. The torches shone in front, the bridal veils covered his face, and wedding toasts were not absent, either. A dowry was also named. Does that not seem enough yet for you, Rome? Are you waiting for him to give birth?”
In Juvenal’s Second Satire (117), we hear of one Gracchus, “arraying himself in the flounces and train and veil of a bride,” now a “new-made bride reclining on the bosom of her husband.” Such seems to have been the usual way of male-male nuptials among the Romans, one of the men actually dressing up as a woman and playing the part of a woman.
The notoriously debauched emperor Elagabalus (ruled 218-222) married and then divorced five women. But he considered his male chariot driver to be his “husband,” and he also married one Zoticus, an athlete. Elagabalus loved to dress up as a queen, quite literally.
Our reports of homosexual marriage from Rome give us, I hope, a clearer understanding of what is at stake. As is the case today, it appears that the incidence of male-male marriage followed upon the widespread acceptance of homosexuality; that is, the practice of homosexuality led to the notion that, somehow, homosexual unions should share in the same status as heterosexual unions.
We must also add that heterosexuality among the Romans was also in a sad state. Both concubinage and prostitution were completely acceptable; pornography and sexually explicit entertainment and speech were entirely normalized; the provision of sex by both male and female slaves was considered a duty by masters. Paeans to the glory of marriage were made, not because the Romans had some proto-Christian notion of the sanctity of marriage, but because Rome needed more citizen-soldiers just when the Romans were depopulating themselves by doing anything to avoid having children.
The heterosexual moral disrepair in Rome therefore formed the social basis for the Roman slide into homosexual marriage rites. We hear of them from critics bent on satirizing such unions. The problem for the Romans wasn’t homosexuality as such, but that a Roman man would debase himself and play the part of a woman in matrimony.
Christians had a problem with the whole Roman sexual scene. We are, of course, not surprised to find that the first Christians accepted and carried forward the strict rejection of homosexuality inherent in Judaism, but this was part of its more encompassing rejection of any sexuality outside of heterosexual, monogamous marriage. Christians are not to be lauded for affirming that marriage must be defined as a union of a man and a woman, because that is the natural default of any people intent on not disappearing in a single generation. What was peculiar to Christianity (again, not just following Judaism, but intensifying it) was the restriction of sexuality only to monogamous, heterosexual marriage.
The Christians found themselves in a pagan culture where there were few restrictions on sexuality at all, other than the imagination—a culture that, to note the obvious but exceedingly important, looks suspiciously like ours.
The first-century A.D. catechetical manual, the Didache, makes refreshingly clear what pagans will have to give up, in regard to Roman sexuality, once they entered the Church. It begins with the ominous words, “There are two ways: one of life and one of death—and there is a great difference between the two ways.” The pagan converts are then confronted with a list of commands. Some of which would have been quite familiar and reasonable to Romans, such as, “You will not murder” and, “You will not commit adultery” (although for Romans, abortion wasn’t murder, and a husband having sex with slaves or prostitutes was not considered adulterous).
But then followed strange commands (at least to the Romans), “You will not corrupt boys”; “You will not have illicit sex” (ou porneuseis); “You will not murder offspring by means of abortion [and] you will not kill one having been born.” Against the norm in Rome, Christians must reject pedophilia, fornication and homosexuality, abortion, and infanticide. The list also commands, “You will not make potions” (ou pharmakeuseis), a prohibition against widespread practices in the Roman Empire which included potions that stopped conception or caused abortion.
I include the prohibitions against sexual practices heartily affirmed by the Romans alongside prohibitions against contraception, abortion, and infanticide for a very important reason. Christians defined the goal of sexuality in terms of the natural ability to procreate. What was different, again, was not recognizing the obvious need for a man and a woman to make a child—Stoics argued along the same lines. What was peculiar to Christianity was removing all other expressions of sexuality from legitimacy (many Stoic men had male paramours). The Roman elevation of sexual pleasure above procreation, and hence outside this tightly-defined area of sexual legitimacy defined by Christianity, led to the desire for contraceptive potions, abortifacients, and infanticide.
It also led to seeing marriage as nothing but an arena for sexual pleasure, which in turn allowed for an equivalency of heterosexual and homosexual marriage.
The Theodosian Code, drawn up by Christian emperors in the fifth century, A.D. made same-sex marriage illegal (referring, as precedent, to edicts published under fourth-century emperors Constantius II and Constans).
We can see, then, that Christians face nothing new in regard to the push for gay marriage. In fact, it is something quite old, and represents a return to the pagan views of sexuality that dominated the Roman Empire into which Christianity was born.
[Editor's note: The years for the reign of Elagabalus were incorrect in the original posting; his reign ended in AD 222, not AD 212.)

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

What Really Happened in Ireland’s Gay ‘Marriage’ Referendum? May 29, 2015:
Last Friday’s 62% vote in Ireland to legalize “gay marriage” has been hailed as a triumph of progressive thinking by the mainstream media and the political establishment. The outcome shocked many in the pro-family movement. But what the mainstream press isn’t reporting is even more shocking.
There is no question that the secularization of Ireland, the weakness of the Catholic Church and refusal of the Pope to intervene, the corrupt political class, and the relentless pro-gay media were all contributing factors to the “gay marriage” vote.
But the “Yes” vote would still have most likely failed if it had been a normal Irish election. Those same general conditions existed in many places here in the U.S. from California to Maine where “gay marriage” failed to win a popular vote.
This “culture war” election was conducted under extraordinary conditions that have never been seen anywhere before in the West. As we described in our pre-election article virtually all of the effort to pass “gay marriage” in Ireland came from massive funding from the United States – primarily a billion-dollar pro-gay foundation, Atlantic Philanthropies –  in a sophisticated campaign spanning over a decade.

Background: Years of referendum losses by the LGBT movement

To understand how this Irish election was won, a bit of history from the U.S. is in order.
Most of us forget that for over 20 years, the idea of a “gay marriage” referendum passing anywhere seemed next to impossible. From 1998 to 2009, there were 31 statewide votes to completely ban “gay marriage.” All of them won. Some won by majorities as high as 80%. Even in Massachusetts, the LGBT lobby fought furiously to keep a “gay marriage” ban from coming to a vote. Their own leaders had come to believe that the only way they would make any “progress” in the U.S. was through the courts.

The big LGBT turnaround in 2012

Then, after the their 2009 “gay marriage” referendum defeat in Maine, the homosexual movement decided to craft an entirely new approach toward elections.
They brought together groups of political strategists, psychologists, pollsters, organizing experts, and various “think tank” types. They meticulously studied the data and their election experiences and designed a new set of strategies and tactics to win against their “right wing” adversaries.
They created a sophisticated propaganda campaign. They shipped thousands of activists into key voting areas to canvass door to door. In order to soften the average people toward homosexuality and create an animus against traditional religious values, they resurrected many of the “big lie” techniques used by the 20th century totalitarian movements. For example, people were told over and over that not allowing “gay marriage” was bad for the economy and that only backward, ignorant, and superstitious people still were against it. Homosexuality was said to be the next phase of the Civil Rights movement. A key talking point was that by supporting “gay marriage” you are “on the right side of history” – a Marxist concept (later used by the Third Reich).
Fundraising became a major part of the strategy. For earlier elections they had casually raised about the same amount (or less) than the pro-family side. But now, they would tap the “gay” moneymen for very large sums of money.
And it all worked. In November 2012 they won all four statewide “gay marriage” referendum votes: Maine (a re-vote), Minnesota, Maryland, and Washington. In those races they spent between five and ten times as much as the pro-family side. Their propaganda was shrewd – for instance, putting forward friendly faces of “gay” couples who seemed just liked everyone else. Their winning margins were not large (between 51% and 53%), but they won.
Shortly after the 2012 wins, the LGBT movement published an article in a Maine newspaper describing much of their “turnaround” process. And since then, they’ve been virtually unstoppable.

Laying the groundwork in Ireland over a decade earlier

Funded primarily by Atlantic Philanthropies, the Irish LGBT lobby groups started laying the groundwork over a decade in advance. Their ambitions multi-year plan (which they later outlined HERE) included a very sophisticated and aggressive lobbying effort targeting Ireland’s key politicians, which resulted in a long string of “incremental” parliamentary successes for the LGBT movement.
The National Catholic Register recently published a very good article chronicling this.  Also, the Catholic Action League of Massachusetts has compiled a complete list of the major anti-family political actions over the past decades that helped bring Ireland to the state it’s in.
However, from the beginning the main goal from all of this for both the Irish LGBT groups and their American funders was to soften up the Irish citizenry to eventually win a nationwide “gay marriage” vote, which for constitutional reasons had to be done by a nationwide referendum. The referendum finally took place on May 22, 2015.

Ramping up for a nationwide “gay marriage” vote in Ireland

It’s one thing to get a country’s parliament to chip away at the moral underpinnings through legislation. But it’s a much different challenge to get a country with a thousand-year Catholic culture to accept “gay marriage” through a nationwide vote.
So to take on the Irish election, the LGBT movement ramped up their effort tremendously over what they did for the elections back in the U.S.
The total LGBT funding to achieve “gay marriage” in Ireland has been estimated at between $17 and $25 million – roughly 50 times what was raised and spent by the pro-family side. Their execution was planned and focused rather than scattered and haphazard as our side’s tended to be.
The campaign with lengthy and intense (and expensive) nationwide propaganda using psychological manipulation techniques to pound the entire country. The average person could barely grasp the force that was coming at him. And that was just the beginning.
The arguments were not rational or truthful, but completely emotional.
People were told over and over that those opposed to “gay marriage”:
  • Are opposed to democracy
  • Will damage lives
  • Are against human rights
  • Will hurt Ireland’s international reputation
  • Will hurt Ireland’s economy
  • Are in favor of discrimination
  • Are against love
  • Are hateful and bigoted
  • Are stupid and backwards
This all had a horrible effect on our side while galvanizing their supporters. It got to a point where people who persisted in holding these “backward” beliefs were considered inferior humans by the supporters. One could literally lose his job over it. A particularly nasty venom was directed at religious believers and the Catholic Church. Many of our people became frightened and confused, while the other side became bolder and more vicious.

Ireland gets a lesson in ‘election mechanics’

As the election neared, the polls showed a 78% “Yes” vote coming up. But the homosexual movement knew they still weren’t safe.
Their brain trust realized early on that a great many people would simply “go underground” with their views and would vote their conscience on election day, but would respond to pollsters in a “politically correct” manner. They also knew that the bulk of hardcore “gay marriage” supporters were young people who had a terrible record of voting or even being registered.
They could still lose if those they really needed (those responding emotionally) didn’t register or vote. So months before the election – with the help of the country’s police force – they set up pro-gay marriage voter registration areas at college campuses. According to eyewitness reports, these booths illegally skipped required steps in the registration in order to process more people.  Over 50,000 college students were registered in this manner, and others already registered were identified. In addition, according to reports, they also had paid canvassers make sure that their likely supporters in the cities were registered to vote.
Then on election day, using sophisticated social media and other techniques, they had the most massive “get-out-the-vote” effort ever seen in Ireland. As a result, over 90% of  known pro-gay marriage supporters voted, and 95% of registered college voters, according to one report. On the other hand, many pro-family people, we were told, feeling overwhelmed and beaten down by the psychological techniques used against them and with no overall get-out-the-vote organization, never made it to the polls.
Nobody in Ireland had ever seen anything like this. There is no question that if the election had been conducted on an even playing field from the beginning (or even with just a 2-1 funding advantage) the “Yes” side would not have prevailed. As one Irish voter observed, "If usual voing patterns had prevailed this would have been easily defeated."

The pro-family Irish opposition – a valiant stand

Given the odds against them and the terrible psychological battle focused against religious believers, the Irish pro-family people stepped up quite admirably. But they were on their own. "These groups received their funding from personal donations by private individuals. There was no big financial backing coming from anyone," we were told by one of the Irish pro-family people.
They put up as many signs as possible, even though a great many were vandalized. They passed out many thousands of leaflets in cities and also went door to door in rural areas. one organization distributed over 91,000 pamphlets. A group of 12 Baptist churches put some ads in newspapers.
We were told that the Catholic Church was very weak on this issue and did not officially call for a "No" vote. According to the Catholic Action League, at least 15 priests publicly endorsed the "Yes" campaign and at least one bishop criticized the pro-family "efforts. Nevertheless, many individual Catholic priests were outstanding in their outrcy for a "No" vote.
Lacking sophisticated planning, there was no unified message. “Every child needs a mother and father” was the common refrain, which has a much stronger meaning in Europe because of outrage over the child trafficking. Others used MassResistance information on what “gay marriage” brings to the schools and other social institutions. A few focused on the dangers of homosexual behavior.

Can this be stopped in the future?

There is talk about Italy being their next “gay marriage” target. They are also eying some of the African countries that have been holding out on “LGBT rights”. 
Can this juggernaut be stopped? Of course it can – with proper resources. Everything the other side does can be picked apart and be countered. Plus, working with the truth normally has a big natural advantage. Their lies, irrationality, and thuggish tactics only work because there’s no effective opposition.
Their biggest triumph has been the LGBT movement’s ability to cut off the  money supply to frontline groups. The millionaires and billionaires ostensibly on our side could easily donate many times the money necessary to fight this effectively. But they have virtually all become emasculated by fear of the “gay mafia”. It’s quite pathetic to see, and it has had terrible consequences. So we need to create new methods of funding. Average people are more becoming more important than ever.
Also, many people in the  pro-family movement (and many donors) still do not see this as a “war” to subvert society, but as a kind of religious/secular disagreement among individuals. This often causes our tactics to be skewed and usually only marginally effective. So even when we have the money, it often gets squandered on dumb things.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Ireland is worse than the pagans for legalising gay marriage, says senior cardinal


The Irish vote is worse than perverse. It is blasphemous


By Father George Rutler 

The Constitution of Ireland begins: “In the name of the Most Holy Trinity, from Whom is all authority and to Whom, as our final end, all actions both of men and States must be referred, / We, the people of Éire, / Humbly acknowledging all our obligations to our Divine Lord, Jesus Christ, . . .” 

The landslide vote in Eire for legalizing the fictitious form of marriage between persons of the same sex, in contradiction of all laws natural and divine, unearths the pulsating Druidism that Saint Patrick and his fellow saints defied. The estimated $17 million from pressure groups in the United States is no excuse, for people will only be pressured if they are willing to be pressured. The other dismal fact is that over 90% of the young people influenced to subscribe to this vote were formed in Catholic schools. The vote was less in favor of perversion and more in hostility to a Church whose Jansenism and clericalism had incubated corruption and lassitude. While most of Europe suffers from the deadly sin of indifference, or sloth, Ireland is in adolescent rebellion, virulent and irrational. This was exploited by political interests hostile to Christian civilization, and their propaganda combined legitimate accusations against ecclesial failings with a left-wing, secularist agenda. 

Ireland helped to bring the Faith to America, and when the flourishing of that Faith degenerated here, that donation was returned in the form of a bacillus. Ireland today has one of the highest rates of suicide and mental illness in all Europe, and one-third of children there are born out of wedlock. Things are worse in the United States. Look at the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade in New York City to see what happens when the honor of a saint is dishonored, and when ambassadors for Christ become nothing more than goodwill ambassadors. 

What happened in Ireland was not sudden. Like a dead elephant that remains standing for a sort while before collapsing, so the Flame that Patrick kindled on Tara had died long before Catholicism was mixed up with political causes, and ethnic drollery replaced dogma. In mordant irony, just a few weeks ago the Stormont in Northern Ireland rejected a motion favoring same–sex unions, a motion more indicting for having been introduced by the Sinn Fein, which had long persuaded naïve Americans that it was a Catholic cause. 

The Archbishop of Dublin, hardly a firebrand, said: “Marriage is not simply about a wedding ceremony or about two people being in love with each other. Marriage, in the Constitution, is linked with the family and with a concept of family and to the mutuality of man and woman as the foundation for the family.” 

In light of the fine invocation of the Irish Constitution, the Irish vote is worse than perverse: it is blasphemous. All the great saints of once-verdant Ireland would have used stronger language. 

Father Rutler is pastor of the Church of Saint Michael in New York City.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Secularism has filled the vacuum left by the decline of Irish Catholicism


Saturday’s vote for same-sex marriage in Ireland is one for the history books. It’s the first time a country has legalised gay marriage by popular vote.
The question on everyone’s lips is: what changed Catholic Ireland into a post-religious country where gay marriage has been enshrined in law by the will of the majority of people?
The vastly diminished role of the Church has left an elephantine emptiness in Irish life. One very important factor is how ashamed many Irish people feel about the sexual abuse crisis. Perhaps the people who ought to feel that shame are the guilty priests and nuns. But Benedict XVI was right, in his book-long interview with Peter Seewald, when he pointed out that most Irish families had a member who had a vocation either as a priest or a nun. Therefore most Irish people felt very deeply the disgrace caused by the revelations of clerical sexual abuse. This was the case even if the priest or nun in a family was totally innocent.
Growing up in Ireland, I saw this first-hand, when a friend or acquaintance who had a brother who was a blameless priest, they would feel embarrassed to say that their sibling was a good priest, for fear that people would think they were “covering up”.
Humiliation and regret have gone hand in hand, and increasingly in the past few decades, the Irish, who have, by an average margin of two to one, legalised gay marriage, convinced themselves that if the Church was wrong, then the opposite of the Church’s teaching must be right.
When the Church lost power and influence in Irish life, that same power and influence was inherited by the forces of secularism. Have no doubt: the vacuum was filled by secularism: The Irish did not turn to another religion such as Pentecostal Christianity. When tens of thousands of people stopped practising as Catholics, they did not en masse convert to any other Christian denomination.
Jon Anderson hit the nail on head when he recently wrote: “Many Irish believe in Jesus in the same way that Hindus believe in Gandhi, an interesting historical figure.”
It’s not as simple as saying that the Irish have rejected the Catholic Church. It goes much deeper: the truth is that the majority have abandoned traditional Christianity and will not let it guide their choices and their way of life.
It’s a strange irony that the Irish constitution, dedicated to the Most Holy Trinity, will now enshrine same-sex marriage. An austere portrayal that even the most formally Catholic legal charters for a formally Catholic country can be usurped by secularism. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Christian bakery found guilty of discrimination by refusing to make pro-gay marriage cake


Ashers Bakery refused to make a cake with an image of Sesame Street's Bert and Ernie and the phrase, 'Support gay marriage'

A judge has ruled that a Christian-owned bakery in Northern Ireland discriminated against a customer after it refused to make a cake bearing a pro-gay marriage slogan.

The Northern Ireland Equality Commission brought the case against Ashers Baking Company, which is based in Co Antrim, on behalf of Gareth Lee, whose order was declined.

District judge Isobel Brownlie delivered the guilty verdict at Belfast County Court earlier today.

“The defendants have unlawfully discriminated against the plaintiff on grounds of sexual discrimination,” she said.

“This is direct discrimination for which there can be no justification.”

The judge said Ashers was not exempt from discrimination law because they were “conducting a business for profit” and are not a religious group.

She added that she accepted that Ashers have “genuine and deeply held” religious views, but that they were not above the law.

“The defendants are not a religious organisation. They conduct a business for profit. I believe the defendants did have the knowledge that the plaintiff was gay,” Judge Brownlie said.

“As much as I acknowledge their religious beliefs this is a business to provide service to all. The law says they must do that.”

Both parties have agreed that £500 of damages are to be awarded to Mr Lee.

Ashers Bakery, run by the McArthur family, was accused of discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation after it refused to make a cake carrying an image of Sesame Street characters Bert and Ernie below the phrase ‘Support Gay Marriage’.

Mr Lee had ordered the cake for an event marking International Day Against Homophobia last May.

Ashers, which employ 80 staff across nine branches, have had their legal fees paid by the Christian Institute.

Speaking outside court on Tuesday morning before the ruling was announced, Ashers general manager Daniel McArthur said: “We happily serve everyone but we cannot promote a cause that goes against what the Bible says about marriage. We have tried to be guided in our actions by our Christian beliefs.”